Call it curbside delivery or Click & Collect, every grocer in America is looking for the capital to remodel its stores to build a staging area to support customers who want the convenience of ordering on line to pick up at the store.

“a significant reduction in space for the center store and possibly its elimination.”

— David Lusk, former Chief Merchant HEB Central Market

So as grocery stores like HEB, Wegmans, Publix and the usual national players remodel to support Click & Collect in their stores, what is the end game? David Lusk, former Chief Merchant of HEB’s Central Market, says it will be “a significant reduction in space for the center store and possibly its elimination.”

In a future where every store is a fulfillment center, the center store could move to the back warehouse. A customer would access the back room assortment online and order all shelf-stable goods that normally anchor the store. Meanwhile the experiential departments along the perimeter will expand. Providing the customer with an enhanced shopping experience in brick and mortar stores. Presumably, while consumer shops from the bakery, deli, produce, seafood and meat departments, center store items are gathered and unite with her at the checkout. Those items could be selected by either the store’s own employees or from an automated gatherer.

Amazon and Whole Foods continue explore the possible integration between online fulfillment and store experience. Can the idea of robotic shoppers from a backroom “center store” be far behind?

The Best Experience Wins

In a new grocery industry where the best experience wins, what this means is a tremendous demand for talent. A grocer’s brand will hinge on the bakers, florists, chefs and experienced meat cutters it attracts. Look for new partnerships with top flight chefs as they roll exclusive programs out to regional high-end stores. Grocers will increasingly value staff with perimeter store experience as they select executives to guide the company in the future.

Winning the center store will increasingly become dependent upon IT, Supply Chain and Logistics. The center store will be managed through a WMS and not planograms. Merchandisers will have to learn how to optimize the very parts of the store most overlooked by today’s merchandising solutions: fast-turning perishables.

For some, this will be a change so fundamental, that they will not adapt and survive. But for others, the chaos of the Click and Collect (and home delivery) disruption will be the breakthrough needed to overtake market share in a stagnated industry.